Slavery began in Massachusetts in 1638, just a few years after the Pilgrims arrived.
Plaque at Edward Devoion HouseBy the 18th century, slavery was normal in Massachusetts and legal in all 13 colonies. In Brookline, both enslaved people and their owners played significant roles.
Dr. Zabdiel Boylston in 1721 carried out a daring experiment to inoculate against smallpox and thus prevent the deadly disease. His experiment had much to do with enslaved Africans.

In 1744 Edward Devotion in his will gave the largest bequest the Town had ever received for the education of children.
Devotion's property list included a slave.

By mid-18th c., one-quarter of Brookline homes held enslaved people. Research to date tells us of over eighty enslaved people in town. Perhaps there were a handful of free Black people living in Brookline in the 18th century, but our current information is unclear.

To remember and honor these people who had received no honor during their lives, in September 2009 the people of Brookline held a commemoration at the Town cemetery, unveiling a plaque.

Click here for a 4 min. video clip introducing slavery in Brookline